admiration and inspiration

There are so many fashion illustrators out there, a few whose work influences my own practice. Surprisingly, I have never posted about this, so I thought I would fix that omission by showing some work by illustrators I admire and reveal some of the names behind the drawings, since many fashion illustrators are not credited and virtually impossible to learn about online. Click on the pictures if you want to see a bigger view.

M.A.C. face chart

While I was at fashion week in New York, the display at the M.A.C. Cosmetics booth featured incredibly lively, gorgeous watercolours which the staff there called face charts. Far from the characterless face drawings that makeup artists plot their ideas on, these things were stunning to look at in addition to conveying the what colours and combinations go on models’ faces. These paintings were done by an artist named Amelie Hegardt. She was not credited – I had to get the staff to make a call to find out who she was. This is the type of thing that I admire but struggle to aspire to – watercolours and painting in general has never come naturally to me, and that light touch that Hegardt shows here is the essence of what makes watercolours such a challenge – space and restraint form the image as much as the brush and pigment does.

antonio lopez

Back in his day, Antonio Lopez was far from obscure – in fact he was on a first name basis with the fashion industry. But now his work is not often referenced, despite the fact that for a few decades he was basically the only working fashion illustrator there was. Once colour photography and glossy full-colour printing came literally into Vogue in the 1960s and 70s, illustration was deemed yesterday’s news and photography dominated the fashionable press. They say there is always room for great talent and Antonio stayed in business because he was the best. In a field where styles get dated quickly, Antonio adapted and updated his work through three decades and stayed in print. His drawings, done from life, are incredibly facile and lively with an attention to anatomy that is rare in fashion illustration. There is no decent website for Antonio fans out there – Antonios People, and I was able to find this image scanned from the book via The Fashion Spot. One image hardly suffices to show all that is Antonio – I highly recommend tracking down the book if you are interested in fashion’s most prolific illustrator.

david downton

David Downton is in my opinion the world’s greatest living fashion illustrator. I can only dream of achieving his great skill at making gorgeous images, and dream I do! As you can see from this pencil sketch he achieves a lot with partiality and space as well as stunning line work, and his images on occasion evoke modern fashion illustration’s greatest, Rene Gruau. One thing that gives me heart in this sketch is the hand where you can see an erasure… it is a relief to see a second thought within a virtuouso performance. Downton works from life, and has sketched many of fashion’s most beautiful faces, most notably his friend and collaborator Erin O’Connor. His great attention to character and accurate anatomy is what I admire most about his work.

Mary Helen by Renaldo Barnette

My friend Mary Helen is working in New York City, and one day she posted this little drawing as her Facebook profile picture. Not only was it recognizable as a brief portrait of her, but I instantly recognized the style – it belongs to a designer named Renaldo Barnette. Mary Helen was surprised that I knew who did the drawing… because Renaldo Barnette is not famous! In fact, this post will make the first site on the internet that shows his work. Barnette, who designs at the upscale ladieswear label where Mary Helen assists, gave me permission to post this, so I am glad I can offer a little internet notoriety to someone who deserves to be known.

I discovered Barnette in Linda Tain’s book Portfolio Presentation for Fashion Designers, where examples from his portfolio leaped out of the full colour insert. Barnette considers himself a designer first, who happens to be a quick draw. Though I see myself as an illustrator first and a reluctant designer, his work compels me because it is not only beautiful and quick, it functions as a fashion illustration should – showing a sense of style, and also describes clothing and ideas with technical detail. While Barnette is the illustrator’s designer, and I find my own position as a designer’s illustrator, the essence of what we do is the same – communicating clothing designs with drawings that also stand on their own merit as fashion illustration.

designs by Renaldo Barnette

These last two images are a few designs that Barnette offered to allow me to show you, as an example of what he does best. His strength as a designer is ideas and details that are wearable and also clever; and as a renderer he shows his abilities with the art marker. This image seems to be only lightly colour corrected – all four figures were drawn directly on one page, using a media that allows no second chances. These pages seems effortless, as if the designer was just carelessly jotting down his ideas.

designs by Renaldo Barnette

What fashion illustrators do you admire?

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22 thoughts on “admiration and inspiration”

  1. i love this post. these are really awesome fashion illustrators. i don’t really know about fashion illustrators, but i do love your work.

  2. I was doing a search for technical templatesand came across your Young Designer illustration. At first i thought it was an incredible illustration, then i realized by looking through your portfolio that you are a Ryerson Grad. I would like to say that I am extremely inspired and motivated by your work- live draping demonstration with smocking detailing (WOW!!), Young Designer’s competition (absolutely mesmerizing), fourth yr collection (I still remember that outfit from two years ago!). I am currently working on my final collection at Ryerson, and after looking through your porfolio, i’m motivated to strive for your level of excellence.

  3. Libo you are too nice. This post is supposed to be about illustrators other than me. Thank you.

    There are a lot of other illustrators worth mentioning, if you liked this post maybe you would like another one?

    David – I am thrilled that you find my schoolwork inspiring, what a thing to say, you made my day. I can’t believe it was two years ago already. Hope your fourth year is as terrific as mine was, and I’d love to check out the lab and see some friends and meet you. What would be a good time/day to drop in and say hi to people?

    Oh, and btw, I make my own technical templates 😉

  4. I absolutely love David Downtowns work.
    I never heard of him before (or any of the other illustrators for that matter, I’m not really in the loop of that).
    But the work he shows on the website are just absolutely stunning.

    I also like the quick sketch from Renaldo Barnette, I like it better than the other work you posted of him, the quick sketch seems to have more personality and style in it.

  5. I love me DAVID DOWNTON’s prowess!
    Y’all ever seen Stina Persson or Martin French?..(tho Martin’s not much of a fashion illustrator but you need to take a look @ and see those strokes).



  6. I don’t know any fashion illustrator, but I would like a list of some to inspire me, I am a new fashion student. thank you

  7. Your illustrations are awsome. I do love Stina Persson’s fashion illustrations with watercolor a lot.

  8. I love these designs. Could you please contact him and ask how he does the body? I always have problems with that. But I have so many ideas in my head.

  9. I’m working on a school project and I am doing research about the Fashion design stuff. So far it seems very interesting and fun. If anyone knows any good websites about it or picures, i’d really like to know.

    email me at:

  10. Hi Danielle!
    Excellent article…i really enjoyed this one. I just recently bought a book on fashion illustration called… Big Book of Fashion Illustration: A source of contemporary illustration by Martin Dawber. I’m loving it and was thinking of you when I was going through it. I’ve always loved your illustrations.
    Deborah (Brown)

  11. Hi there,
    I love Renaldo Barnette’s work and I would love to get in touch with him for a project I am working on~ is there any way you could give me contact information for him? Thanks so much!

    Please contact me at

  12. hi i love your post it helped me so mch becasue im basing my art project of fashion. does anyone know of any fashion artists or anyone who used different materials to create their sketches?

  13. hi- I know nothing at all whatsoever about fashion illustration, but would like to, as I would like to add a feature to my blog that uses beautiful fashion drawings as inspiration for a planting design (I write a landscape design blog). I am looking for a place to source fab fashion illustrations– perhaps students – or copyright free or whatever…for this new regular feature…I am all about giving credit where credit is due, so maybe would be a great way to get some publicity for anyone interested….email me at if you are interested or know of anything…

  14. I love your designs. Just to let you know, I know nothing about designing but I love to look at admire artwork, especially designing.

  15. Hi, you r so inspiring! I admire you….were did it all start? Would love to do designing one day…I know, life is short….

    Thanx for a gr8 website!!

  16. Lovely and thank you! Have you come across the work of David Pfendler – a fashion designer by training and an illustrator by trade.

  17. Thanks for posting so many beautiful drawings. I have a personal fondness for a few fashion illustrators whose work appeared in Seventeen magazine during the late 1960’s. These would include Sheila Camera, Thea Krilos, Garie Blackwell, and of course, Antonio Lopez.

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